15 Minutes, just a mere 900 seconds was the deciding factor for Gennady Golovkin to board a plane to the 2004 Olympics games in Athens in place of his more talented brother Max, the catalyst for being left with the question of ‘What If?’
It now looks a wise decision given Gennady Golovkin’s continued trajectory but given what we know now, it becomes difficult not to wonder what could have been accomplished by his younger brother also.
Growing up in the war-torn country of Kazakhstan, the Golovkin family called Karaganda home, a coal mining town that was exploited for its ‘Black Gold’ by the Soviet rule that was enforced over it.
There were two general choices for employment within the region at that time, Mining or military both of which brought with it dangers that I or you would find not the most enviable of options. Toughness was expected of its occupants, the Golovkin’s were no different in that respect but that was only one element of what accumulated into two of the nations best talents after the years of training being handed down from the teachings of their older brothers Vadim and Sergey, both Gennady and Max held a fascination for the pugilistic arts from a young age, helped further by reliving the exploits of their favourite fighter, Sugar Ray Robinson who they would watch for hour after hour on footage from yesteryear.
Not opting to follow their father down a mine shaft Vadim and Sergey decided the second option was more appealing to them and joined the army, a decision that would devastate the family as both were presumed to have died in action in the early-1990s, by this point both Gennady and Max were considered the best Middleweight’s that the country produced, a sombre thought knowing that the eldest of the Golovkin siblings would be unable to witness.
At the time of their ascent, It became almost inevitable to find Max at the top of a podium, leaving victorious every tournament that he would enter unless feeling obliged to step aside to allow his brother the limelight, this is not to say Gennady wasn’t talented, contradictory so, the stats and the examples of which are boundless having won 345 bouts whilst incurring only five losses along his path, it was just a fact that Max was numero uno or Бірінші нөмірі in Kazakh, a subject when brought up, Gennady wholeheartedly agrees upon
“He was very good, he was much better than me,”Gennady said recently of his brother Max
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE…
As time passed, the call came from the countries hierarchal to put forward a fighter to go to the Olympic games, a quandary as both competed in the Middleweight division.
“Just before the Olympic Games he said ‘okay, maybe you try first’,” Gennady recalled. “I said ‘no, I’ll try second’
At an Impasse, it was left to the family to decide the fate, The Gold medal that was on offer was of little interest to the Golovkin household, the struggling family was preoccupied more so in keeping food on the table, that was able because of the work provided by the mine in which the Twins father would spend the majority of his time.
After a brief deliberation, the family chose Gennady primarily based on the fact he was 15 minutes the elder of the brothers, nothing else but a mere 900 seconds.
Gennady Golovkin would go on to make the most of the family’s decision, dominating the Middleweight division for a time whilst in the interim collecting a Silver medal in Athens, beating Andre Dirrell along the way before succumbing to defeat to the eventual winner, Gaydarbek Gaydarbekov.
Max, on the other hand, would never lace up a pair of boxing gloves again, instead indebted to helping his poverty-stricken family whilst Gennady sought out a more lucrative route, moving to Germany to pursue his professional career.
In the years following Gennady’s career along it’s path whenever seeing the twins together I find myself in contemplation of the question ‘What If?’, more so from seeing how dominant the apparent lesser skilled Gennady has been throughout a career that still has a way to go, a question partially answered by the older man whilst going through the motions of a strenuous training camp, high up in the hills of Big Bear in California.
“I think, for him, it would have been a much better chance than for me. He was more focused on boxing, he had a much better style than me.”
Today, Max can be found in quiet contemplation in the corner of his brother, relaying the instruction of the trainers around him, seemingly at peace in the shadow that his brother cast.
But we are still left with the question, ‘What If?’